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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #95-92

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #95 through #92. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

Each weekday, we will reveal five Phillies from the PN Top 100, with longer or more expansive posts dedicated to individuals that are of particular note to Phillies fans or are closer to the top of the list. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back tomorrow for #91, a very special entry. 

#95- Juan Samuel

Years: 1983-1989

.263/.310/.439, 100 HR, 249 SB in 3780 PA

Previous Rank: 29 (-66)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 57th among position players, 92nd overall

Signature Season: Finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1984 with 19 triples, 15 homers, 72 steals and a .272/.307/.442 line in an MLB-leading 737 PA.

Samuel checks in as the first position player on the Phillies Nation Top 100, manning second base faithfully for the Phillies from 1984 through 1988 after a brief cup of coffee with the club in 1983, including a pair of pinch running appearances and one at-bat in the 1983 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles. For those reading this list who only know Sammy as a coach on Ryne Sandberg‘s current coaching staff, Samuel was a free-swinging righty lead-off man that was regularly the Major League leader in at-bats (1984-1985, 1987), triples (1984 and 1987) as well as strikeouts (1984-1987) as a Phillie.

From 1984 through 1988, Samuel ranked first in runs, RBIs, triples, and steals among all MLB second baseman and trailed only Sandberg in that same group in homers. While those stats are certainly as eye-popping as his 1984 line as a rookie, context and efficiency are key to assessing Samuel: Samuel was able to amass these counting stats in large part because he remained healthy on teams playing largely meaningless games, aside from 1986, as a young player.

As pretty as those counting stats look, Samuel walked just 5.3% of the time in that stretch (33rd out of 38 qualified second baseman) and posted a rather horrible .309 OBP (31st out of 38 qualified second baseman), just three points higher than the immortal Chris James and two higher than the equally-immortal Steve Jeltz in that same time span. Another factor working equally as hard against Samuel was his defensive deficiencies: Samuel ranks 37th out of 38 qualified second baseman in FanGraphs’ defensive rankings from 1984-1988.

In 1989, Samuel would move to center field and be traded to the rival Mets on June 18, 1989 for Lenny Dykstra, Roger McDowell, and a player to be named later. Samuel would struggle for the contending Mets (.228/.299/.300 to finish the year), as would Dykstra for the Phillies (.222/.297/.330 in 1989). But I think we can agree that trade turned out OK. Samuel remains one of the most revered Phillies in their franchise history and was an inductee to their Wall of Fame in 2008.

#94 – Billy Wagner

Years: 2004-2005

8-3, 59 saves, 1.86 ERA, 0.810 WHIP in 126 IP

Previous Rank: New to Rankings

fWAR Phillies Rank: 133rd among pitchers, 288th overall

Signature Season: All-Star in 2005, racking up 38 saves in 41 chances with a 1.51 ERA 

Signature Stats: Among Phillies pitchers with at least 100 IP, ranks second in ERA, ninth in FIP, fourth in K/9 IP, and first in WHIP

Bring on Billy Boy,” said Charlie Manuel to an Associated Press reporter in 2006, referring to the former Phillies’ closer who would be facing his former club for the first time as a member of his new team the Mets. Wagner had become unpopular with Phillies fans after telling the media “(the Phillies) ain’t got a chance” to make the playoffs midway through the 2005 season. He endeared himself even less when he gave up a 1-1 tie in the ninth inning of a September 6 game against the Houston Astros and then a three-run homer to Craig Biggio the next night, blowing the save and perhaps the season. The Phillies would finish just one game behind the Astros in 2005 for the NL Wild Card.

Mixed in with the misdirected angst, inexplicable mid-season comments challenging the intensity of his own teammates, and his unpopular-with-former-Phillies’-teammates recollection of closed-door team meetings, Wagner threw a 100 MPH fastball and had perhaps the best two seasons in the history of the club for a relief pitcher. Among all Phillies pitchers with at least 100 IP with the club, he ranks first WHIP, second in ERA, ninth in FIP, and fourth in K/9 IP. He was equal parts brash and dominant with a horrible sense of timing: had two of his few missteps as a Phillie on the field came after the playoff-hungry fans heard his comments about the Phils not having a chance to make the playoffs, he may be remembered more fondly. Either way, his dominance earns him a spot in the Phillies Nation Top 100.

Jim Lonborg#93 – Jim Lonborg

Years: 1973-1979

75-60, 3.98 ERA in 1142.1 IP

Previous Rank: 81 (-12)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 32nd among pitchers, 87th overall

Lonborg is the first of a few of what I like to call solid, “compiler” players, players who had played with the Phillies long enough to compile stats that push them into the Phillies’ top 100 players of all-time. The winner of the 1967 Cy Young award with the pennant-winning Boston Red Sox, Lonborg was acquired by the Phillies from the Milwaukee Brewers along with Ken Brett (who had been traded with Lonborg from the Red Sox to the Brewers just one year earlier), Ken Sanders, and Earl Stephenson for Bill Champion, Don Money (the man Mike Schmidt replaced), and John Vukovich.

Lonborg’s time spent on the Phillies coincides with their historic turnaround from their historically-bad 1972 season: Lonborg would win 75 games from 1973 through the end of his career in 1979 with the Phillies, seeing the Phillies jump from 59 to 71 wins from ’72 to ’73 and then to 80 wins in ’74, 86 wins in ’75, and, finally, 101 wins, the first of three straight division titles, and their first playoff appearance of any kind since the Whiz Kids in 1950. Lonborg is tied for 21st in team history in wins, ranks 18th in games started, 29th in innings pitched, and 94th in ERA. You can’t tell the story of the Phillies without the story of the 1976 team that finally broke through to the playoffs. And you can’t tell the story of the 1976 Phillies without telling the story of Jim Lonborg.

Larry Jackson#92 – Larry Jackson

Years: 1966-1968

41-45, 2.95 ERA, 1.178 WHIP in 752.1 IP

Previous Rank: New to Rankings

fWAR Phillies Rank: 34th among pitchers, 89th overall

Signature Season: Posting a 2.77 ERA and a 1.186 WHIP as a 37 year old pitcher in 243.2 innings in 1967

Jackson is the answer to a trivia question that hurts most Phillies fans: who did the Phillies receive in return for future Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins in a 1966 mid-season trade? Jackson, a former four-time All-Star, was acquired on April 21, 1966 to try to push the then 4-4 into the upper echelon of top NL teams just one year after finishing 85-76, 12 games behind the pennant-winning Dodgers.

For two and nine-tenths of a season, Jackson, pitching in his age 36 through 38 seasons, was pretty good. According to WAR, Jackson, from ’66 through ’68, was the 16th best pitcher in baseball. In his final season with the Phillies, 1968, Jackson posted a remarkable 2.77 ERA with a 1.186 WHIP as a 38-year old.

For two and a half seasons, Jackson was a top 15 Major League pitcher for a series of Phillies teams ranging from fringe contender (1966’s fourth-place, 87-75  squad) to the beginnings of the cellar dweller crews (1968’s seventh place, 76-86 team).  Jackson was a bright spot in three frustrating years and has become an unfortunate trivia question answer. He deserves more than that.

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